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Power Science

US Plans "Disposable" Nuclear Batteries 297

Posted by Zonk
from the putting-energizer-out-of-business dept.
holy_calamity writes "A US government program is in the works to design small nuclear reactors for use by developing countries. The work continues despite fears about security and nuclear proliferation. Plans include having reactors supplied with fuel by the US and other trusted nations, or to build reactors with their whole lifetime of fuel packaged securely inside — like a giant non-user replaceable radioactive battery.' '"
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US Plans "Disposable" Nuclear Batteries

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  • by StefanJ (88986) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:40PM (#22744996) Homepage Journal
    . . . don't stick the terminals to your tongue to see if there's still a charge.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by msauve (701917)
      like this [radford.edu]?
      • by geekoid (135745)
        That guys eyes are creepy!
      • by solitas (916005)
        Another link on the same topic, with many links in itself: http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=660 [damninteresting.com]

        I've got an old-old still-sealed 2oz. bottle of radium paint from my Grandfather - still glows pretty well. And yes, it's kept in an appropriately-shielded container.
        • Read an article once in Reader's Digest called the Radioactive Boy Scout. At least I think that was the title. Talked about a kid that used some radium paint like that to build a device that concentrated and aimed the particles like a beam. He then used it to create more radioactive material by bombarding things with. If the story was true he caused a minor situation in the neighborhood with hazmat or whatever they were called back then having to move in and collect all the stuff and remove it.

          But as
          • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:42PM (#22747326)
            http://www.dangerouslaboratories.org/radscout.html [dangerousl...tories.org]

            He started with smoke detectors (americium), moved up to radium, the uranium.

            "When David's Geiger counter began picking up radiation five doors from his mom's house, he decided that he had "too much radioactive stuff in one place" and began to disassemble the reactor. He hid some of the material in his mother's house, left some in the shed, and packed most of the rest into the trunk of his Pontiac." ...
            "At the shed, radiological experts found an aluminum pie pan, a Pyrex cup, a milk crate and other materials strewn about, contaminated at up to 1000 times the normal levels of background radiation. Because some of this could be moved around by wind and rain, conditions at the site, according to an EPA memo, "present an imminent endangerment to public health."

            After the moon-suited workers dismantled the shed, they loaded the remains into 39 sealed barrels that were trucked to the Great Salt Lake Desert. There, the remains of David's experiments were entombed with other radioactive debris."
  • Proliferation? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TFer_Atvar (857303) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:42PM (#22745018) Homepage
    Why worry about proliferation? They're not going to be sending these things to Iran -- if they're ever built -- and any financially and technologically stable nation can already build nuclear weapons. There's over 100 research reactors operating around the world, hundreds more medical reactors, and all the power-generating ones as well. Sounds like a good plan to me.
    • With very few, if any, exceptions, developing countries are governed by corrupt or easily corrupted leaders. A chance to "lose" a reactor and gain a few $M is really hard to pass up. May as well just bypass the bullshit and put them on the open market.
      • by kestasjk (933987)
        I thought the whole point of this reactor was to provide nuclear power in a self contained package that couldn't be torn apart for enrichment purposes? I hardly think the US would do this if there was a real proliferation risk.
        • "I hardly think the US would do this if there was a real proliferation risk."

          Personally I don't put that much faith in US foriegn policy. The way I see it the US, Australia and a few others want to monopolise nuclear fuel production because they think it will be a big part of 'clean' energy over the next 50-100yrs. They claim that they are doing this because they are 'responsible' nations but how this "responsibility' is determined is beyond my understanding.

          These kind of patronising schemes have ever
    • Re:Proliferation? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kelz (611260) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:55PM (#22745178)
      Reactor grade uranium is 3-4% Uranium-235 (the dangerous kind), and weapons grade uranium is 90% U-235. It takes an order of magnitude more equipment to reach even a crude weapon's level at 20% 235. It even says in the article that the uranium enrichment and processing won't be done on-site.
      • by asuffield (111848)
        And furthermore, we're already losing large amounts of low-grade uranium every year - in the sense that we had it, and now its whereabouts cannot be accounted for. Some of it is lost from the processing and refinement facilities, and a whole lot more is smuggled [bbc.co.uk] out from the obscure countries where it is mined.

        Anybody who wished to proliferate already has access to more uranium than they could possibly want, with all this stuff supplying the black market. There is no proliferation threat any more, because i
      • by Yartrebo (690383)
        Going from 4% to 20% U235 is far easier than going from .7% to 4%. Not only are fewer processing machines needed for your train, but you're processing a far more concentrated stream, so the machines can be smaller. Going up to 90% is again even easier than the 4% to 20% step.

        There's a reason why natural uranium resources (which are fairly abundant) don't need even minimal security while uranium stockpiles are (or should be) tightly guarded.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why worry about proliferation? They're not going to be sending these things to Iran -- if they're ever built -- and any financially and technologically stable nation can already build nuclear weapons. There's over 100 research reactors operating around the world, hundreds more medical reactors, and all the power-generating ones as well. Sounds like a good plan to me.

      Nuclear reactors of this size scale will have hundreds of thousands to millions of curies of activity left over when they decommission. In a day where we worry about a 5 or 10 Ci dirty bomb being able to be made, this would be intensely idiotic.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Firethorn (177587)
        Nuclear reactors of this size would be incredibly difficult to crack and create a dirty bomb without fatally irradiating themselves, much less avoid setting off every radiation detector in the area.

        Besides, the most likely source of radioactive materials today for a dirty bomb is medical radiation sources.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dbIII (701233)

      Why worry about proliferation?

      It has been happening anyway and really is not related to devices like this. We don't have to worry about the Iranians wanting them either. Iran would also most likely be able to do something as good or better by this point since nuclear power research in the USA stalled long ago and is far behind the South African (pebble bed), Chinese and Russian technology that is available to the Iranians.

  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:45PM (#22745042) Homepage
    Having nuclear reactors with a lot of common parts opens up a lot of possibilities. Never mind hassling Iran for having nuclear power, train their guys to use Western reactors and if they start getting a bit too good, steal the talent.
  • FFS (Score:4, Insightful)

    The work continues despite fears about security and nuclear proliferation.

    Fer crying out loud. It's bad enough that we're running out of fossil fuels, but between the hardcore environmentalists and paranoid first world countries, we're not making much traction on the nuclear issue, which is a shame. Talk up your fave green project all you want, but all of us need to get on the nuclear power plant bandwagon sooner rather than later. cheap fusion's not going to be here for a while.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by abqaussie (1250734)
      Or we could just focus on improving the efficiency of solar and wind power generation. And lowering the power consumption of the everyday devices we use. Oh but I forgot, reducing the amount of power we use doesn't make anyone money. So silly of me.
      • Re:FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by The End Of Days (1243248) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:18PM (#22745460)
        The silly part of you is assuming that you could somehow make consumption reduction a priority over improving generation facilities. It's a simple issue - one requires the cooperation of everybody, while the other requires changes that can be made without that cooperation. There's a pragmatic decision to be made there.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by abqaussie (1250734)
          Actually neither the silly nor the unsilly part of me is assuming that reducing consumption should be a priority over improving generation. Re-read my post. First thing I said was we should improve generation facilities. I just specified two forms of generation that aren't nuclear. Improving efficiency and reducing consumption was the second point in my previous post. I'm not making some environmentalist, or hippie anti-materialist argument. Consumption is going to increase as population increases, and bec
        • by Valdrax (32670)
          Without deliberate effort to reduce consumption, all that will happen is that energy demand will rise to meet new energy supply, making it impractical to decommission older, dirtier plants or to test unproven technologies when consumers demand energy *now.*

          We already see this with the way coal plants continue to be built today instead of other technologies. We could power everything with renewables using today's technology if demand wasn't far outstripping supply.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sumdumass (711423)
            Actually, the deliberate effort creates a wash too. It is because products have a life cycle and don't just get scrapped. At best, used devices goto poorer people who either eventually replace it with another used item that ends up with someone else looking for a deal. This causes the markets to increase and when you add the increases in the population, you end up with the same.

            So a deliberate effort to reduce power consumption is part of the puzzle, it doesn't fix anything. Take your example of Coal plants
      • Your dodging the point.

        Nuclear is a reality right now.
        If governments wanted to, they could switch over to nuclear + renewable in a couple of years.
        Add electric cars and bye bye a *lot* of CO2.
      • Re:FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CodeBuster (516420) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:54PM (#22745918)

        So silly of me.
        Indeed it is. Conservation doesn't work for many of the same reasons that communism doesn't work. It is human nature to be greedy so why should I cut back when I can be a free rider [wikipedia.org] on your conservation? Are you going to create new regulatory agencies and energy police to seek out and punish people who don't conserve? Conservation, rationing, dividing up existing wealth, socialism...it just doesn't work and it has never worked. Either you use the gun (ala Stalin) or you have to offer people incentives and conservation is all stick and no carrot.
      • Re:FFS (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nbert (785663) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:12PM (#22746130) Homepage Journal

        Or we could just focus on improving the efficiency of solar and wind power generation.
        At the current growth rate of the technologies you mentioned it simply isn't going to make a significant difference. Of course there is the possibility that improvements in efficiency will make up for it (by some miracle invention), but that's like betting on the slowest horse in a race because it offers the highest win - wouldn't do it with anything else but with some spare change I keep for entertainment.

        The power consumption of devices is really important to me. For idealistic reasons I buy devices featuring high energy efficiency. Plus there is an economic dimension: In my country one kWh costs around $0.31 and one gallon is aroung $7.5. I must admit that the current dollar/euro ratio inflates these prices, but even if the exchange ratio was 1.30 the numbers would still look rather high. But even when I give preference to low-power devices I have no doubt that anything saved by me (and the western world in general) will be compensated by higher demand in emerging markets.

        Btw: A high share of the prices mentioned above go into subvention of biofuel, wind- and solar-power. But even with high subventions the market share of regenerative energies is around 5% over here. In my very greenish opinion the best way to archive sustainability is the following: Tax energy consumption, but use the money coming from it for something else than subvention. This will make sure that demand is reduced on the customer side. On the production side legislation should regulate: Install a emission trading system like in Europe (but better) and sign international treaties like the Kyoto protocol. Producers could still use coal plants, but the economic benefit would strongly favor other sources of energy. I strongly believe that any other system will result in billions spend in nonsense.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cjb658 (1235986)

        Well, they could make money and reduce everyone's power consumption by raising the price of power.

        Is there any reason why people can't buy solar panels and put them on their roofs? Are they too expensive? Ugly? Do they not provide enough power for the average home?

        I still live in my parents' house so I don't have a say in the matter.

        • by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:07PM (#22747088) Homepage Journal
          Is there any reason why people can't buy solar panels and put them on their roofs? Are they too expensive? Ugly? Do they not provide enough power for the average home?

          1. Nope
          2. Very much so
          3. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
          4. Sure, you just need a lot of them, not to mention a storage bank if you want power when the sun's not out.

          Limited exceptions aside, the only thing keeping solar from being part of the standard roof installation is that even with 50-75% subsidization on the part of various government agencies the payback is over 20 years in most cases. If you assume a 5-10% cost of capitol, many systems would never break even.

          Cut the cost of panels in half and double the cost of electricity and it makes sense in orders of magnitude more places, such as areas where electricity is extremely expensive, such as some European countries and California when the legislature is having a particularly large cow.

          Get the cost of an install that'll cover ~50% of a home's needs down to ~$2-4/watt and I'd expect them to be building factories to build the panels left and right. I say 50% because more than that and you'll likely need battery banks($$$) to go off the grid otherwise the power companies will start doing things like charge a monthly connection fee to pay for infrastructure and maintenance, and refuse to buy power because they have no demand when you have power to sell.

          A single watt of panel can be expected to produce ~2-3 kwh a year. If you're paying $.30 a kwh, you're looking at a payback period of around 4-5 years. That's reasonable. The problem: I haven't seen a new panel kit for less than $10/watt, and I only pay $.10 per kwh. So I'm not installing them anytime soon.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by mac84 (971323)
        Yes or we could triple the thermal efficiency of the Internal combustion engine to 90% and overnight cut by two-thirds the worlds motor fuel requirement. This could be a simple retrofit to any gasoline or diesel engine and shouldn't cost more than US $5.00 per car.

        I like my fantasy more than yours.
  • Excellent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {dnaltropnidad}> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:46PM (#22745068) Homepage Journal
    Don't forget powering desalinization plants.

    If you can build desalinization plants around the nuclear device, it would be easier to secure, and immediately noticed if someone started tampering with it. i.e. the loss of power.

    • Nuclear reactor and the corrosive power of salt: a match made in heaven!
      • by geekoid (135745)
        It's a SEALED UNIT. Plus your not running the salt through the reactor, in fact the treatment doesn't even need to be near it, moron.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Gertlex (722812)
          Nuclear reactors have a lot of waste heat. Might as well use that heat directly for desalination, rather than using the generated electricity.

          Not that I've ever bothered to look at how modern desalination is accomplished.
        • Calm down. It was mostly a joke, hence the subsequent moderation. But some part of the electrical distribution system that's near the rector would be exposed to the very corrosive salt.

          There are two things that I DO NOT underestimate: The extent of God's mercy, and the corrosive power of salt.
      • by bigtrike (904535) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:00PM (#22745250)
        What do you think nuclear powered ships use for cooling? Seawater.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:14PM (#22745426)
          Most modern reactors use a sealed coolant system, where the coolant that circulates through the reactor is in a sealed loop.

          A heat exchange device is used to transfer heat from the sealed coolant system to another system using ordinary methods to dissipate.

          No salt water every actually goes into the reactor, or even near it. That would be idiotic.
          • by icegreentea (974342) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:32PM (#22745670)
            Why the AC modded down? He's absolutely right. In a nuclear submarine, the coolant loop within the reactor is completely sealed. It pulls heat from the reactor, goes through a heat exchange where it dumps the heat into a second loop, which then flashes into steam to drive a turbine. The steam is then cooled again (presumably with seawater at that stage), across yet another heat exchange. Sea water doesn't even come close the reactor. The only time it ever does is when you seriously need to stop the reactor and dump all your heat. My understanding that this type of scram will basically fuse your entire reactor into a solid radioactive lump.
          • by bigtrike (904535)
            Sure there are things that are not seawater involved in cooling, such as heat exchangers and primary cooling loops. But you've still got sea water running through the system to do the cooling at temperatures hot enough to boil water at atmospheric pressure, and you could easily use this for desalination.
        • by kesuki (321456)
          no they use a heat exchanger that transfers heat from 'light water' and cold sea water. there are 2 big problems with sea water. 1. it has salt 2. it has 'heavy water' particles, particles in almost every body of water, unless processed to not have any... particles that can in fact initiate fusion, just by being close enough to a fission reaction. how do you think they made the hydrogen bomb in the First place? put a lot of heavy water next to a fission reaction...

          All atomic reactors use heat exchangers.
          • I believe that both the Americans and Soviets had a lot of problems getting their liquid sodium coolant to work properly. Something about it being much harder to contain, corrosion in the coolant system, and the fact that liquid sodium adds the complexity of having to keep it liquid. Makes certain aspects of maintenance trickier.

            Also, heavy water itself as very little to do with fusion bombs. Heavy water is used as a neutron moderator, which basically means it slows down neutrons, giving them a better chanc
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by kesuki (321456)
              the American system 'melted down' when the coolant pump seal melted and 'fused with the fissionable material, preventing coolant from circulating'

              the obvious solution, is to not use a pump that requires a seal, or to design a seal that doesn't react to liquid sodium.

              but it caused an unshielded test reactor to melt down, albeit in a desert, but it was the worst atomic accident that the government doesn't want people to remember.
      • by kesuki (321456)
        um actually it's "the corrosive power of water, highly magnified by the catalyst salt" liquid sodium is about as corrosive as nitrogen, but add a little bit of salt to water, and most metals corrode even faster than they do in just plain water.
      • by Valdrax (32670)

        Nuclear reactor and the corrosive power of salt: a match made in heaven!
        You mean as opposed to liquid sodium cooled reactors?
        (Which, incidentally, we have used before in submarines... UNDERWATER.)
  • by budgenator (254554) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:48PM (#22745094) Journal
    In many countries their is a severe need for cheap plentiful energy to do things that we take for granted like water purification. It's a given that before a country starts receiving these reactors that they will have to ratchet up a lot of the infra-structures to distribute the energy and maintain security. I can't help but see this has the potential to help everyone involved.
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:49PM (#22745104) Homepage Journal
    The Energizer Nuclear battery, it just keeps glowing, and glowing, and glowing....


    I apologize profusely.
  • At Last! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Naughty Bob (1004174)
    I'll be able to take my N95 away for a weekend without the charger.....
  • by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:49PM (#22745124)
    I like the Nuclear Batteries idea. It at least tries to solve a difficult, but important, problem with a creative solution that might help create a compromise between our needs for energy secure neighbors and want of nuclear non-proliferation. Sadly, we have people in our own country who protest and actively try to stop transport of our own nuclear wastes. I imagine, sadly, that the uproar of transporting "live" material in this form will be even greater. It is not at all about the actual hazards of the "batteries," but it is all about the perception of hazards. I like the direction, but there are elements missing in the formula.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You say nuclear, they think Hiroshima. You say reactor, they think Chernobyl. I think the misinformed greenies out there should do their homework as to the benefits of nuclear power versus their preconceived notion of risk to personal safety. I've lived near a nuclear facility my entire life and really haven't seen much merit to what people like Greenpeace have to say.
  • by irregular_hero (444800) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:50PM (#22745130)
    Toshiba has already developed this as a viable technology and is in the process of deploying something like this in Alaska as part of an NSF-funded replacement of a diesel-fired powerplant.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiba_4S [wikipedia.org]

    And Toshiba's not the only game in town as far as micro-reactors go. Why would the government spend a boatload to develop something that already exists commercially? Why not just allow countries to select the best commercial design that fits them and ease the regulatory barriers to permit easier US fueling of self-contained sub-50 megawatt reactors? Seems like the AEC is just caught flatfooted in response to new technology, that's all -- no need to develop anything, just rework the regulations to take into account new technologies.
    • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:01PM (#22745256) Journal
      First, this is in the range of 250 MW to 500 MW. Second, Toshiba has done nothing with theirs. Finally, the idea of these is to make it difficult to have a country use these for bomb making. Every country has no choice BUT to persue nuclear power plants. The reason is that EU and much of the west is about to slap a carbon tax on (there is no way around this; it is the only way to protect their industry AND drop their own carbon). But we can not have more NKs, Pakistans etc. running around. As it is, American republicans sold our nuke secrets to Turkey and Pakistan and that is why we have issues from the middle east in the first place.
    • by Cloud K (125581)
      Toshiba... aren't they the ones with the exploding batteries or am I thinking of another manufacturer?

      Either way, with the industry's track record with lithium ion I think making nuclear batteries will have to be done with a wee bit of caution :)
      • Actually there is a very good chance the problem isn't the batteries, Any lithium ion battery will "explode" when it shorted out so it's very possible that device the battery shorted out via the tin whiskers growing out of the "green" lead-free solder used in most modern electronics. While an individual whisker is optically invisible, when it shorts out it creates an ion bridge that can conduct 100's of amperes of electricity.
    • Toshiba has already developed this as a viable technology and is in the process of deploying something like this in Alaska

      While it is a habit lately to redefine words at whim to win arguments the old meaning of viable is a bit different to this and the old meaning of deploying is something other than very early design stages. The old meaning of "already exists" is also something that I'm a little happier with than the redefinition where ideas can be described that way instead of physical objects. While t

  • by Prototerm (762512) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:09PM (#22745364)
    Then when your laptop battery explodes, it'll take out a whole city block.

    Cool!
  • What are they going to do, encase the entire reactor in a giant epoxy glob? Humans have a knack for being able to open things (opposable thumbs, reasoning, abstract thinking)

    I understand AC has it's transmission limits, so lets backpedal a bit here.

    Put the reactor under the ocean at some insane depth near the 3rd world country, and run undersea cables to the shore.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by EricB504 (1256040)
      Ohm's Law
      • A few hundred meters down would be enough to cause huge problems, and that means just a few km of cable to the coast. That means its only a problem if the power need is far inland.
  • iNuke
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:24PM (#22745526)

    The work continues despite fears about security and nuclear proliferation.


    I think TFA misses the point entirely: the main reason for the work is to address security and nuclear proliferation fears. Packaging reactors that are not particularly useful in an arms program with a complete lifetime of fuel and making them available to developing countries is intended as a minimize both the reality and the appearance of a legitimate need for developing countries to have their own civilian (or merely "civilian") nuclear programs, which could more easily be converted to (or covers for) military programs.

    Clearly, they aren't proliferation proof, but traditional reactors, especially built and developed locally (even if with outside assistance) are even less proliferation-proof, and those are spreading in the absence of any effort to provide an alternative. This is an attempt to lessen the both the actual need and the political viability of the claim of a need for those kind of independent programs.

    The alternative to this program is not that the developing world gets no nuclear material and no reactors.
  • This is bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chord.wav (599850) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:25PM (#22745538) Journal
    Have you noticed that it is the US that is planning the "solution" to a foreign problem? Did anyone ask for help in the first place? Or they are mandating it?

    What if, say, Peru plans a solution to US health care problem and decides unilaterally to deploy that solution to the US?
    • Re:This is bad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Buelldozer (713671) <cliff.gindulis@net> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:41PM (#22745762)
      Ahhh the good ol' double standard.

      Do nothing and a hue and a cry goes up for leadership. Do something and a hue and a cry goes up because we're insufferable bastards forcing or will on the rest of the world.

      You don't get it both ways. Either we lead the way or we don't. I haven't seen a plan like this put out by any other first world nation, though I suppose I could be lacking information.
    • Peru 'suddenly' becomes a rogue socialist state after the AMA lobbies congress to stop their illegal free medicine.. citizens are aided more than they would otherwise be, but still find things to complain about.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rayonic (462789)

      What if, say, Peru plans a solution to US health care problem and decides unilaterally to deploy that solution to the US?

      So, like, they'd open a chain of free health clinics or something? Using Peruvian tax dollars? Okay.

      Foreign aid is better given as specific goods and services, rather than cash. Money has a way of disappearing when gifted to 3rd-world governments. (Or any government, really, but it's worse in some places.)
  • I knew it. (Score:3, Informative)

    by ultramk (470198) <ultramk AT pacbell DOT net> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:29PM (#22745596)
    like a giant non-user replaceable radioactive battery

    The iPod Yotta cometh. Steve's gonna be pissed that it leaked.

    (The news, I mean. If the battery leaked, you would have to evacuate the city.)
  • Trusted? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Mgt (221650) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:36PM (#22745714)
    Plans include having reactors supplied with fuel by the US and other trusted nations

    Trusted by who?
  • Nukes NOW (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bxwatso (1059160) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:36PM (#22745718)
    Here are some facts as I see them:

    1. In today's economy, energy availability is one of the keys to economic growth and a reasonable standard of living, especially for developing nations.

    2. The general consensus is that carbon fuels are harming the environment.

    3. "Alternative" energy sources such as solar and wind are much more expensive per unit of energy than carbon, and developing nations have little interest in them.

    Therefore, AFAIK, the only feasible source of energy that can lift people to western standards of living without burning huge amounts of fossil fuels is nuclear. Even so, developing nations have no interest in nuclear (except Iran and DRK) because it is still more expensive than coal. To spread nuclear power will require incentives and R&D taylored to small nations.

    Nuclear power is by far the safest source of energy that can be deployed anywhere in the world (sorry hydro and thermo), and I think a program such as this one could be one of the greatest developments for the world's poor. Even the US could use 100 new nuclear plants today to achieve its environmental goals.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cdrguru (88047)
      Unfortunately if you listen to the environmental lobby long enough you will discover that it is pretty commonly thought that the very last thing we should be doing is to "lift people to western standards of living". Doing so will increase their resource usage, increase the waste being produced and generally contribute to the end of the Earth being a good place for animals to live.

      I firmly believe that our new president, assuming McCain doesn't win, will side with the people that believe it would be better
  • Since when, in the last few decades anyway, has the U.S. been a "trusted" nation? Any by whom? I sure as hell don't know, and I live here.
    • by NullProg (70833)
      Since when, in the last few decades anyway, has the U.S. been a "trusted" nation? Any by whom? I sure as hell don't know, and I live here.

      I guess it sucks to be you. Bob Geldof says were doing the right thing in Africa and they pretty much appreciate it. Columbia is happy with us (I get that from the Columbian national programmer sitting next to me at work). The eastern European countries like us to for some weird freedom/democracy issue (especially in Kosovo). Cuba, Russia, Serbia, China, Syria, Iran, N.
  • "Anyplace is walking distance, if you have the time."

    Any reactor is disposable, if you have the place.

    As for arguments that the design precludes abuse and proliferation, never underestimate those of persistence, regardless of intent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_boy_scout). They tend to take explanations of supposedly difficult things (like http://science.howstuffworks.com/uranium-centrifuge.htm [howstuffworks.com]) and hack an easier method, such as using the "centrifuge" part but not the "gaseous diffusion" part.
  • Here first please. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macz (797860) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:09PM (#22746100)
    Why would we give away free power to the rest of the world?
    • why not? Look at OSS, Open Source Software, it an example of an abundance economy. The more people who use OSS, the more there is, more bug reports to help developers to fix thing and add features, more incentive to right more code to attract more users, wash, rinse, repeat. The poorest people in the US is middle class in a lot of countries, imagine a world where the poorest people are what was once the middle class, that's what free power would do for the rest of the world. Look at how much we spend on sec
  • They just say nuclear as a cover and if any one digs deep they will find the name homer simpson.
  • I hard that homer simpson is working on this.
  • Fixed it for you (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vikstar (615372)
    A US government program is in the works to design small nuclear reactors for use by their international military deployments.
  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:47PM (#22746428) Homepage Journal
    Our modern world (such as it is) is built upon cheap energy. Up to this point, we've been using oil to supply vast amounts of energy - as well as many, many products that are based upon oil. Plastics, fertilizers, medicines, etc. If you'd like to change your lifestyle to one where you have nothing other than what you can craft from stone or wood, line up over there.

    The rest of you - we can't go on like this. Other countries are "coming on line" soon and will need their share of oil, too. There's just not enough to go around; not in the long term. All the wishful thinking in the world isn't going to change this - we need to find another energy source, go back to the stone age, or fight World War Three to secure what's left of a disappearing resource.

    Those who think that hydrogen or ethanol are the solution - go to the back of the bus. There's no free hydrogen on this planet and to obtain free hydrogen you need to add energy. Current methods for obtaining hydrogen: electrolyse water (big energy) or catalytically extract it from natural gas (limited supply). There's no free energy here, hydrogen is an energy storage medium, not an energy supply.

    The ethanol solution is also based on mostly fantasy. Sure, you can ferment carbohydrates at virtually no cost other than the carbohydrate source. But distilling it to obtain the ethanol is a high energy operation. Can ethanol be distilled using less energy than can be obtained by burning it? Maybe someday, but using today's technology it's a losing proposition. And don't forget that the carbohydrate source is the same one that we call "food". Our government's current push for ethanol is the reason that Mexican farmers are plowing under their agave crops and planting corn instead. When you notice that the price of your tequila has skyrocketed, thank your government.

    When looking for an energy source, forget just looking at things you can burn to release energy. Look at things that can be found naturally in a state where they can be burned to release energy; these may be useful energy sources. That eliminates hydrogen and ethanol, both of those require energy input to manufacture.

    Until something else is discovered, other than oil the only primary source of energy we know of is nuclear power. You can demonstrate against it - and it is indeed an imperfect source of power; disposal of the "exhaust" is a very difficult problem. But it's the only thing that we've got to work with in the long term.

    Wind and water may provide some energy, but they won't be enough. If you don't want nuclear energy, suggest something else that will provide a positive energy result.

  • by LM741N (258038) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:10PM (#22747544)
    Two headed rabbit with one nipple.

"Just Say No." - Nancy Reagan "No." - Ronald Reagan

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